This is the beginning of a new series of posts, posts about what we really eat. It is what it sounds like. This is the quick & dirty. The wholesome, the one pot. The clean out the fridge meals. The repetitive pesto meets whole grain but we don’t care because it’s so good meals. Because pistachio & purslane pesto isn’t just any pesto. This is put an egg on it supper. This is when it’s just us & whatever was at the market, and I’m tired and hungry. This series will happen about once a month and will include corners of our home, mundane vignettes from our life, and real meals from my table to you. This is what I actually eat. This is who we really are. Yes, I’m a baker & thrower of fêtes, but more often than not I’m girl in turban & overalls, barefoot standing on tables or basking in the glow of a computer screen whilst in the bathtub listening to Rachmaninoff. Or that Britney Spears song that I gather was written for a Smurf’s movie? You know, whatever.
This is me, late at night, writing to you, dear reader. I do not, despite appearances, subsist on waffle cakes & buttermilk biscuits alone. I rarely eat dessert unless I’m developing a recipe (ok, so that’s admittedly often) or it came in the form of a pint of ice cream from the drug store, and we eat, for the most part, vegetarian. Mostly because I’m cheap, and I’ve no interest in cheap meat. My usual dinner tactic is to take what I find in the market and apply one of the “blank slate” recipes or techniques in my arsenal, my cravings, and some pantry staples to it to create a light, seasonal meal of real, whole foods. Just an aside, but I think it’s extra important that crazy people eat well. I’m not joking. Nutrition is an amazing way to achieve mental clarity & peace, among a few other choice methods. Like meditation & yoga. And in my case the odd anti-epileptic mood stabilizer. Holistic like, you know.
I sleep more than a normal person now, I said. Not but a couple of weeks prior I’d only been sleeping ever two days instead of every one. I have awful sleep hygiene, it’s true.
You do sleep a lot.
I have so much trouble falling asleep. But when I sleep, I sleep. I love to sleep. I guess it is a lot like being dead…
He laughed. You sound so sad. So forlorn.
I’m not, I said and meant it. It just seemed, for a moment, a shame to like that limbo. But my sleep isn’t much like death. Buildings explode; I fall to my knees & feel gravel digging in; alien ships darken the sky; and Stephen Colbert regularly falls in love with me. I even got high with Michael Ruhlman once in my dreams. Not, it isn’t really like being dead. Not that I would know much about that anyhow. I did read a few lines out of the Tibetan Book of the Dead recently. But that hardly makes me a qualified expert. And it doesn’t propose blackness anyhow, not from what I gathered . I heard if you’re afraid of dying, you should read that book. I’m not afraid of dying, but we had it on our shelf, so I looked at it anyway.
I took a drag off his electronic cigarette (a habit I can’t quite seem to break, though it’s harmless to little more than my wallet) and turned onto Frasier, a road on the Northshore that runs by the river, past all the bridges & little shoppes, places to find locally wrought bijoux & or an excellent hot dog & fries with real Dutch Fritessaus. A couple stood at the end of the walking bridge as we drove past it, and they were both standing still, staring up at the sky. He did a double take.
I thought those people were statues. Or like invasion of the body snatchers.
And so on and so on as we drove home like we drive home every day, up Forest or down Tremont St. I sip coffee or coconut water as I drive. I’m a consumer, an imbiber, a smoker, a sipper, a hair twirler, a knee tapper. I’ve always got something in hand. I sip, and twist the wheel of my car hard. The power steering seems shot, and it makes a strange groaning noise that I mostly ignore. I turn past a million little ghosts of all the lives I’ve lived here, from eating sticky buns at the Town & Country in patent leather Mary Janes to “smoking” candy cigarettes from the Mr. Zip, carving them into intricate shapes with my teeth, to walking to the coffee shop where I learned to smoke real cigarettes in my school uniform to the Walgreens where that same Town & Country restaurant once stood, where I now buy my fake cigarettes. And my cheap, secret ice cream. A whole life’s trajectory from sticky buns to electronic cigarettes in a three block span of space-time. Stories written on top of stories, tapes recorded over tapes. They bleed through. You can never really write over them.
We work, he in his office & me in my “office” (the bed, the bath, the kitchen counter, the porch…). And then it’s time for dinner. I love to make risotto style farro these days. I haul some chicken stock out of the freezer, melt it in a pot, watch the oil shimmer, the shallots sizzle, and I stir. I’ve always loved to stir risotto. It seems like one of the few excuses in the world to do absolutely nothing. I am beholden to the risotto, to break it down, to make it creamy. I cannot step away. So I stir and breathe. At the very end, I put in a healthy amount of pesto. A handful of halved tomatoes, always lightly sea salted. A few extra gratings of Cumberland cheeseAnd then I fry a couple of eggs sunny side up. Water in jars. Afterwards we clear the dishes, usually work more and sometimes late into the night, but we always, always end each night in each others arms for a long moment in the dark before rolling off into our respective sleeping labyrinths beneath the ceiling fan.
For something sweet with your savory, hop over to The Vanilla Bean Blog for a peach & blackberry cobbler I made with a fistful of herbs in it and a sweet buttermilk biscuit topping.
Feeling really tired & hungry? You don't have to make the farro risotto style. Feel free to just cook it the traditional way and just stir in the pesto. But I think the stirring is a meditative way to unwind after a long day, and it makes the texture something special.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium shallot, diced
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cup farro
- 1 quart chicken stock (homemade or low sodium)
- 1/2 cup pistachio purslane pesto (recipe below)
- 1/2 cup small tomatoes, halved & lightly salted
- 2 eggs, fried sunny side up or poached (optional)
- freshly grated cheese for serving (optional)
- Heat olive oil over medium until shimmering.
- Meanwhile heat chicken stock in a pot until barely simmering/steaming but not boiling. Keep hot.
- Add shallot to oil & sauté until fragrant & translucent without browning.
- Add farro to pot with shallots, stir to coat with oil, and cook for a few minutes to toast the farro.
- Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed.
- Adding a ladle of stock at a time cook farro, stirring constantly, until the farro is cooked an all the stock has been absorbed. The farro should be chewy but not crunchy or mushy.
- Remove from heat and stir in the pesto. Taste for salt and adjust if needed. I usually make my pesto pretty salty so I don't usually add more. Top with tomatoes, a few grates of cheese, a fried egg, and a few cracks of black pepper for good measure.
To make farro the regular way: bring 1 cup farro & 2 cups water to a boil in a pot with a pinch of salt. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes until the water is absorbed and the farro is nice and chewy.
For one, this isn't so much a recipe as something I eyeball and make to taste, so consider this merely a guideline. It can either be made in a mortar & pestle (making it a real "pesto") or in a small food processor. I do it both ways depending on my mood and time. Like stirring the risotto, I find the physicality of grinding it soothing, and I like the rustic texture. But if you're not up for it or prefer a smoother texture, use a food processor.
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 cup purslane, leaves (I included the stems if using a food processor)
- small handful of basil leaves
- 1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup freshly grated cheese (I use a local cheese called Cumberland. Of course you can always sub parm or any cheese of your choosing.)
- freshly grated black pepper, to taste
- splash of good olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
- If using a food processor (I use a mini), combine greens, garlic, and salt. Pulse to just combine. Add nuts and cheese and again pulse to just combine. Taste, add a bit more salt if needed and a few cracks of black pepper. Add the splash of oil & the vinegar and pulse again. Adjust to desired consistency using more oil if you like. I prefer it thick.
- If using a mortar & pestle, grind salt & garlic to a paste. Add in greens and grind to a paste, repeat after adding nuts, cheese, and pepper, and then again after adding oil and vinegar.
- Store in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a week or freeze for up to three months.